Louie F. Rodriguez, professor of education at Cal State San Bernardino, was one of 27 fellows selected to participate in the United States Department of Agriculture’s 2012 E. Kika De La Garza Education Fellowship in July.
Rodriguez, who is also the principal researcher for the project Participatory Research Advocating for Excellence in Schools in the Inland Empire, said that the fellowship helped him build connections between the Inland Empire and the USDA, especially in ways to connect high school and university students in internship and fellowships that can result in college and career opportunities.
PRAXIS is a school-based, university-affiliated research collaborative intended to respond to the high rate of high school dropouts in the Inland Empire. The majority of research was conducted at Colton High School, where Rodriguez is an alumnus. He believes this project is one way to give back to his community.
From this research, Rodriguez developed a 10-point plan to respond to the education crisis and strongly believes the solutions to the region’s challenges are in our schools and communities.
“The fellowship afforded me the chance to see the landscape of opportunities available to institutions such as CSUSB,” said Rodriguez. “I learned of the critical role that the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities plays in advocating for Hispanic Serving Institutions across various government agencies.”
By working collaboratively with the USDA, the fellowship program offers faculty and staff from Hispanic-Serving Institutions the opportunity to gain insight and understanding of the federal government. HSIs are accredited and degree-granting institutions of higher education with a full-time Hispanic student enrollment of 25 percent or more.
Through this partnership, HSIs are better prepared to address educational challenges faced by the Hispanic community and to promote services and employment opportunities offered by USDA agencies while diversifying the department’s workforce.
Rodriguez said he became better acquainted with USDA’s seven mission areas, which include research, education and economics, rural development, food safety, natural resources and environment, among others, and learned about possible ways that HSIs can leverage science, technology, engineering and mathematics-related research activity and internship possibilities for students.
The 27 fellows were selected from Hispanic-Serving Institutions across the nation based on the compatibilityof their interests with USDA mission areas, as well as the value their experiences will add to their institutions’ educational capacities.
Seven fellows represented six California State University campuses, including Bakersfield, Fresno, Monterey Bay, Pomona, San Bernardino and San Diego.
Rodriguez, who received tenure promotion in CSUSB’s College of Education in the spring, is excited to share the opportunities the USDA has to offer, including internships for college students and future employment and careers after graduation.
He met with various other agencies, including the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, networking with educational leaders from across the U.S., ranging in specialty areas from biology to educational policy.
Rodriguez, a San Bernardino resident, also met with officials of the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Policy, discussing possible activities related to reducing poverty and promoting opportunities across regions. “I’m excited about bringing this opportunity back to the Inland Empire.”
A significant highlight for Rodriguez was an invitation from Jose Rico, executive director for the White House Initiatives for Hispanic Excellence in Education, to address a group of summer interns. Rico, who has visited the CSUSB campus on several occasions, wanted him to provide a global snapshot of the state of Latinos in education and present some ways to respond.
“I addressed challenges that are national in scope; then focused on state-specific challenges and ended on what’s going on in the Inland Empire today,” said Rodriguez. “It gave me the opportunity to share how our PRAXIS Project is one effort to curb dropout rates and promote student success, educational equity and community engagement opportunities.
“Through deliberate will and best practices already underway at CSUSB, we can mobilize our existing people power to create more opportunities for our students and, in turn, improve our region,” said Rodriguez. “This can be facilitated by our commitment to equitable opportunities and outcomes, especially given the larger social, political and economic challenges we face.”
For more information, visit the USDA E. Kika de la Garza Fellowship website.
For more information about Cal State San Bernardino, contact the university’s Office of Public Affairs at (909) 537-5007 and visit news.csusb.edu.